AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — Looking at a photo of herself, taken by a witness, Karime Cavazos still can’t believe she’s the one in the picture.
“Wow, that’s me,” Cavazos said in awe with tears filling her eyes. “That could’ve been the last day I saw my daughter.”
In the photo, you can see there’s no one else around as this plane goes down just feet away from Cavazos.
“I hear a noise and I’m on the phone with my niece and I turn around and I see this plane just coming straight toward me,” Cavazos said.
This was only Cavazos’ second time out on the lake. However, when she realized a plane crashed, she knew she couldn’t stand by without doing anything.
“The first thing I do is pick up my phone and dial 911, put my phone on my board and I started paddling,” Cavazos said. “I was like if there’s somebody down there, I have to do what I have to do to save this person.”
The Texas Department of Wildlife said the pilot’s name is Lt. Dwayne Havis. He’s a game warden pilot with the state.
Cavazos saw the plane sinking, with Havis holding onto it right before her eyes.
“And it’s sinking fast,” Cavazos said. “And I see a head pop up, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, thank God.’ So I’m paddling, paddling as hard as I can, but with the water and everything, it was just so hard.”
When she made it over to him, she realized who Havis was.
“All I see is this man and this khaki uniform, and it said ‘state police,'” Cavazos said.
She told reporter Jala Washington she was able to get the pilot onto her board and more than halfway to shore before another paddle boarder helped her.
“The pressure of it bringing the plane down, the water was sucking us in,” Cavazos said. “So, I told him you need to grab onto my paddle board, grab onto my paddle board. He was weak and very disoriented and just having a hard time even holding on. I was like, ‘Just please hold on, we’re almost there.'”
Maybe it was an instance of being in the right place, or maybe it was the right time. Cavazos said what happened has given her life a new purpose.
“I’m far from being a hero,” she said. “I’m just a human being who did what I would want anybody to do.
Cavazos said she wasn’t planning on being on the lake on Thursday. In fact, she was hesitant to follow through with paddle boarding once she got there because there was hardly anyone else out there.
She went out there to escape the noise of her own life, in hopes of getting closer to God. Now, she feels she was out there for a reason and is happy she was able to help save a life.
According to investigators, the pilot reported the cockpit filled with smoke, and that the engine failed before it went down.
We also spoke to Havis’ wife who is grateful to those who helped him. She said he’s dealing with a cough after inhaling smoke but is OK otherwise.